UFC Fight Night 31 Preview: Jorge Masvidal vs. Rustam Khabilov

Jorge Masvidal (25-7, 2-0 UFC) vs. Rustam Khabilov (16-1, 2-0 UFC)

A lightweight battle featuring two fighters who are rising up the rankings with 2-0 records in the UFC takes place, and it shapes up to be a fun battle. Masvidal comes into this fight riding a three-fight win streak, the last two coming in the UFC after moving over from Strikeforce. He is coming off a submission win over Michael Chiesa at UFC On FOX 8 in July, and he is 5-1 over his last six fights. Khabilov puts his five-fight win streak on the line against Masvidal, and he has won 16 of his 17 professional fights. He is coming off back-to-back stoppage wins over Vinc Pichel and Yancy Medeiros in his first two UFC bouts.

Fight Breakdown- Masvidal is a long-time veteran of the sport despite being just 28-years-old as he will be fighting for the 33rd time in his ten-year career. He has fought for numerous promotions, but he really found a home with Strikeforce in 2011. He won fights against Billy Evangelista and K.J. Noons to earn a shot at the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship held by Gilbert Melendez. They fought in December 2011 and Melendez won the fight with a unanimous decision. He bounced back with a win over Justin Wilcox in his final Strikeforce fight, and he has made a nice, smooth transition to the UFC. He took a hard-fought decision against Tim Means in his UFC debut, and his win over Michael Chiesa in July was a nice comeback from losing the fight in the early stages. It was also his first stoppage win in nearly four years. Fighting out of the American Top Team camp, Masvidal will have a huge experience edge over Khabilov, and he should be prepared for a dangerous opponent.

Khabilov is a highly-touted prospect who has had two spectacular first-round wins in the UFC. He had a very impressive debut against Vinc Pichel as he showed off his takedown ability with numerous slams and finished Pichel with punches following a hard slam in one of the best debuts for a fighter in UFC history. He scored his second win off of another slam, but it was due to his opponent, Yancy Medeiros, dislocating his thumb and the fight was stopped due to injury. However, the fight was going well in the favor of Khabilov and he was headed towards another quick win. He has made himself a name for him saying his job is to throw his opponents down to the ground, and he is quickly becoming highly-regarded in the Greg Jackson Camp, where he is training. Khabilov has a background in Combat Sambo competition, and he is known for his relentless attacks and suplexes that he will unleash during the fight.

Masvidal is an excellent fighter and will be a huge step up in competition for Khabilov. Masvidal has good boxing and power in his hands and is very well-rounded with good takedown defense. His takedown defense is going to have to be top notch in this fight as he should know that Khabilov is going to look to impose his will with the takedown game. Masvidal will have the edge on the feet and will need to implement a heavy leg-kick strategy to chop down the legs of Khabilov and slow down his takedown speed. Khabilov does have decent standup, but it is not at the level of Masvidal. Masvidal should look to establish a solid jab, and he has good left hooks, plus his timing is good as he blends his punches and kicks with good accuracy. Khabilov should look to close the distance quickly and create scrambles as it will set up a takedown opening.

A fight in the clinch could favor either fighter. Masvidal has good dirty boxing and solid knees in the clinch, but Khabilov should force the fight against the fence and use the cage to create openings for his suplexes. Khabilov uses constant pressure, but he can be one-dimensional. However, he will force Masvidal to be one-dimensional, but that one dimesion will be Masvidal’s striking. Khabilov has yet to have his chin tested inside the Octagon, and Masvidal will be the test that Khabilov needs. Masvidal does have a good submission game if the fight goes to the ground, and he can get a submission out of nowhere as evidenced in his fight against Chiesa. It will be a tough test for both men as Khabilov gets an experienced fighter but Masvidal gets a fighter with a lot of potential who is on the upswing. This fight will likely go the distance and will test the conditioning of both men as Khabilov will bring constant pressure. Despite Khabilov’s two previous showings, this is a close fight. Wrestling will make the difference and Khabilov has the edge there. He gets the win.

Why It Matters- The winner will move to 3-0 in a tough UFC lightweight division, and with the abundance of lightweights losing fights lately, it will move the winner quickly up the rankings. The winner could get a fringe top-ten fighter in their next bout, and a solid win streak will put the winner right into the title mix. This is a big fight for both Masvidal and Khabilov, and both men are young with a lot of potential. This will be a fun fight for the viewers of this event. Regardless of who wins and loses, we will be seeing a lot more from both fighters.

Prediction- Khabilov

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